Redefining Marriage – What Did Jesus Do?

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This comment was written on the second day of the Report Stage of the Same Sex Marriage Bill in the House of Commons. In the run-up to this event I received many emails from Christian groups urging me to pray and protest in the hope that this bill will fail. Amongst these was one from Christian Concern on Saturday 18th May with the subject “Marriage – What Would Jesus Do?” In this email the author urged their readers to emulate Jesus’ stand against the redefinition of marriage in Matthew 19v3-9. What hit me as I read it was the hypocrisy of this call and how that in itself goes a long way to explaining why repeated pleas that The LORD would stop the progress of this bill seem so far to have fallen on deaf ears.

Has the horse bolted?

I can only presume that the author did not spot the irony of appealing to this passage given the attitude of today’s “Bible believing” church. Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, reminded that generation of Jews that their God hated divorce (2:14-17). The religious leaders of Christ’s day had ignored God’s anger and appealed instead to the Law, which they interpreted as permitting divorce. (In fact Deut. 22 & 24 only define when divorce is not allowed.) The Pharisees wanted Jesus to accept their unbelief by agreeing that divorce was permissible. This He refused to do, reminding them of His Father’s original intention at creation when He made us male and female. Jesus drove this home by quoting Gen. 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The Christian Concern email rightly commented, “Jesus cared too much to have any place for the redefinition of marriage. He took people back to God’s original good pattern. He didn’t duck the issue. He spoke clearly – because He cared.”

Four or five decades ago most evangelical/charismatic Christians and churches stood with Jesus in His opposition to divorce. They also agreed with Him that remarriage whilst a divorced spouse was alive is adultery as far as His Father is concerned. Since then “Bible-believing” Christianity has been modernised in line with the world and its desires. These days it is those Christians who stand with our Creator’s best who are denounced as being unloving and judgemental. This is not the case though. As the email which prompted this comment correctly stated, “He didn’t duck the issue. He spoke clearly – because He cared.” Just as a parent tells a child not to put their hand in the fire out of love for them, telling people that The LORD hates divorce and considers remarriage to be adultery can and should be done out of a concern for their welfare. Instead Christians, including church leaders, have been influenced by the growing numbers of family, friends and members of their congregations who have been divorced and remarried. Consequently, it is not just the institutional churches (remember, the Church of England was founded to enable Henry VIII to divorce and remarry) which have allowed marriage to be redefined, but also most of those churches which claim to be based on the teaching of the Scriptures. Now that we are in a panic about this latest step in the redefinition of marriage, I believe The LORD is asking those who are called by His name, “Why didn’t you agree with my Son when your governments took the first step to redefine marriage, saying that it need not be a life-long commitment? Why did you agree with them and not Him?”

Humility and repentance are called for

2 Chronicles 7:14 has wrongly been claimed as a promise to the Church. Unlike Israel, we have not been given a physical land but are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13). However, Paul wrote that The LORD’s dealings with Israel were recorded for our instruction (1 Cor. 10:11). What can we learn then from God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chron. 7? It shows how we as His people should respond when He judges us for our sin (v13). Much more than prayer is required. When The LORD disciplines His people, their first response should be to humble themselves then to seek His face (will) in prayer and then to follow up these steps with repentance. Repentance requires us to change our ways.

With over two thirds of MPs remaining consistently in favour of redefining marriage, it seems that The LORD has shut up heaven and is not answering the prayers of many. Can we face up to the implication that (as Israel discovered) “our iniquities have separated us from our God”? (Isa. 59). Can we humble ourselves? Are we prepared to seek His will rather than tell Him ours? Most importantly, are we prepared to “turn from our wicked ways” and confess that we have been wrong to redefine marriage? Will we now agree with Jesus that His Father hates divorce and that remarriage is adultery? Unless Christians are prepared to return and stand with Christ, we cannot complain when politicians continue along the path we have willingly gone part way down.

In closing I want to make one thing clear: I do not believe that Christians’ attitudes towards divorce and remarriage are the only reasons why The LORD is angry with His people throughout the West. There are many other ways in which we have been unbelieving, but this is not the place to discuss them. Neither do I have any confidence that if a few heed this call, then The LORD will stop this bill becoming law – the majority of those who are seen as the Church are as stiff-necked as Israel was on many occasions. However, Jesus is looking for a response from individual Christians rather than from congregations and organisations just as He was when He wrote to the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:17-20). Will you stand with Jesus or will you love the world? No man can serve two masters.

© Randall Hardy - May 2013

I have written a longer article looking at today’s wider situation which is called “The Question Christians are not Asking” and it is available here.

For a printable PDF version of this article please click here.
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